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Good Behaviour

Brian Pascal's President's Message this month focuses on the value of continuous learning in keeping one's skills current and mind sharp. Too often, however, I think that companies and individuals focus on technical skills to the detriment of the all-important behavioural competencies. While I certainly don't deny the importance of learning that new programming language, how a new piece of equipment works, or what the latest updates in employment law are, we should not forget to develop our soft skills and keep them honed.

Kate Moore, RPR
MQ Editor
I recently started a new job as HR Generalist in an organization that focuses on research. Not surprisingly, the bulk of our workforce is made up of scientists and engineers and technical competencies are not only crucial, but incredibly specialized. But while those technical competencies are certainly a focus of our recruitment effort, we by no means underestimate the importance of behavioural competencies when it comes to success in the workplace.

I think most HR professionals can think of a situation where they have hired someone with the technical knowledge they were seeking, perhaps a bit weak on the behavioural side, but the department really needed someone in the job so they settled. The result? Very often, they paid dearly for that decision. In the end, they may have ended up with an individual who was unable to communicate clearly with colleagues and clients, who was unable to adapt or be flexible in a changing environment, and/or who had little or no initiative or results orientation. The time that supervisors spent trying to change that behaviour in an effort to bring the employee up to the level required turned out to be considerable.

Hiring with behavioural competencies in mind is only part of the equation. In order to maintain a vital, engaged workforce that will enable employees to advance their careers within the organization, any program of continuous learning should include development of skills such as communication, decision making, partnering/networking, and leadership. Making development of the so-called “soft skills” a part of the ongoing performance review process will ensure that such training is not overlooked. Having the foresight to put in place a holistic development plan will not only benefit the individual employee, it will help the organization in the long run with retention of staff and succession planning. Successful individuals and organizations recognize that while technical ability will help you to do the job, behavioural competencies will help you excel.


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